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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Someone needs to remind Donald Trump America is Employee-Owned


If you watched the debate Monday evening, you probably noticed Donald Trump talked a lot about his alleged business acumen. How rich he is, how successful he is, how he owns buildings in cities. Donald spent a great deal of time on Monday talking about himself. When he spoke about America, it was with disdain, negativity, and an almost dystopian view of our country. Donald Trump made it very clear he wants to run the United States like one of his businesses.

There's one problem with Donald's vision: America is employee-owned. We the people are ultimately in charge. We vote, we canvass, we run for office, we exercise our First Amendment right to protest, and it's our voice that matters. We are not a casino, or a hotel, or a condominium. We are African American, Hispanic, LGBT, Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Wiccan, Jewish, poor, middle class, renters, homeowners, Caucasian, immigrants, Native Americans, and this is our country.

It's our vote, our support, that elects a president, not a board of directors. America is owned by we the people, something Donald does not seem to understand. Or perhaps he just doesn't care. This is the man, after all, who said he could shoot someone and not lose any support. His supporters back up that statement every single time they defend yet another of Donald's horrible, awful, sociopathic comments. They honestly don't care if he is a sexist, hateful bigot; they just care that he hates the same people they hate.

We are not a business to be managed. We are a country of individuals, struggling to pay our bills, and put ourselves or our children through college. We go to work when we're sick, we go to work when we're exhausted. We want a president who cares about us, who wants to help us make better lives, who wants us to have more opportunity, who supports all of us. Donald Trump would not be that president.

Donald wants to ban all Muslims from our country. He refuses to say he would never use nuclear weapons against our allies in Europe. He admires Vladimir Putin, a man who jails journalists and dissidents. Donald tells a lie every 3 minutes. He lies about lies he's told before, like China creating climate change. Donald lied on Twitter when he wrote climate change was invented by the Chinese, then during the debate, he lied by saying he had never told the original lie. Donald Trump lied during the debate when he argued he'd never called pregnancy an "inconvenience" for business, because he did say that:

...a wonderful thing for the woman, it's a wonderful thing for the husband, it's certainly an inconvenience for a business. And whether people want to say that or not, the fact is it is an inconvenience for a person that is running a business.

Many of us, the employees who own America, see through the con Donald Trump is running. We've pulled back the curtain, and we see him for what he really is: a sociopathic megalomaniac, who thinks he is the best at everything, who sees women as objects, who sees minorities as lesser people, and who will, if elected, destroy this great nation. The United States is not an island, we cannot survive a president obsessed with isolationism and nationalism. We are part of a global community, and we need a president who understands that.

America is employee-owned, and the only way we are going to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office is if all of us come together on November 8 and stand up for ourselves. Stand up for your neighbors, your children, and strangers who will be harmed if Donald Trump is elected. It's up to us to make certain a racist, xenophobic, egotistical bully does not become the 45th President of the United States.

If you are not registered to vote, please visit RegisterToVote.org. You can register online in just a few minutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When A Stranger Tells You To Kill Yourself

Image from the Los Angeles Times

A few days ago, a man named Marshall Beck told me to kill myself. He told me to "draw a bath" and "grab a razor." The reason Marshall Beck wants me to end my own life is because I wrote a snarky comment underneath a ridiculous article written by a guy who will never date a feminist.

I took a screenshot of Marshall's comment, because I wanted to preserve it. I wanted to remind myself there really are people out there who are awful, horrible, cruel individuals. This screenshot:


He also called me a mentally ill moron.

If you read my stuff on a regular basis, you know my history. You know I have survived two suicide attempts, rape, domestic violence, and a childhood that was sort of awful. You know about my mom. And the priest. You know about CTC. You know that I am a borderline, and have been diagnosed with chronic depression, anxiety, and PTSD. You know I used to self harm by cutting my arms, legs, and face, with a razor blade.

For all those reasons, Marshall Beck's comment stopped me in my tracks. A stranger, a man who doesn't know me at all, hates me so much he wants me to end my own life. You can read more about Marshall in my article about him here; I even included a link to his Facebook page, so you can see for yourself what a truly deplorable person he is.

I'm never going to end my own life, or even try. I've fought bigger monsters than Marshall Beck, and I always win. But I'll be honest-that comment triggered a ton of awfulness inside my head, and my heart. And ten years ago, I would have sat in this dark place for awhile, then perhaps, self harmed.

Now? Now I say look at what I have done, look at who I am, look at the life I have made for myself and my family. My interview with Bobby Seale is part of an archive collection at U.C. Berkeley. I talked to Anne Rice on the phone. I interviewed John Fugelsang. I made the number one spot on Reddit's political page. My husband and I will celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary this December.

The Marshall Becks of the world are insecure, ignorant, hatemongers, who think they have power online. Yes, I brought attention to him, because I am a huge fan of dragging hate out into the light. Plus I cannot stand bullies. But there will always be Marshall Becks. The key to dealing with them is remembering they're pathetic cowards, hiding behind a keyboard.

Marshall Beck has a website where he lists, among other things, his affiliations, including Brain Damage Films. Brain Damage Films specializes in selling B-list horror movies. On the off chance they might be interested in knowing Marshall Beck told me to kill myself, I sent them an email. This was the response I received from the president of Brain Damage Films:

Erin,
I have received your message (below). Mr. Beck is the lead singer for a band in which Brain Damage Films subsidiary Brain Damage Musik released a CD for his band Reign of Vengeance 4 years ago.  Other than quarterly reporting for sales and licensing made of his music, he has no association with our company.  I have been in touch with Mr. Beck regarding the matter and after a tiny bit off fact gathering; it appears you are known for voicing your opinion publicly on many topical issues we are all dealing with in this world.  My thoughts on the matter:  if you want to make your ideology and beliefs public and engage in “snarky responses” than you need to accept others opinions in a public forum that you started, whether you agree or disagree.  I was also taught at a very young age, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will NEVER hurt me!”.

More than anything, I simply felt it necessary to give you a response, rather than ignore you.

Darrin G. Ramage
President – Brain Damage Films

In Mr. Ramage's world, when a woman dares to share an opinion online, she deserves to be told to kill herself.

This is why, when confronted with an internet bully, I am never ready to play nice.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trump's Basket of Deplorables

It's no secret that Donald Trump's entire presidential campaign has been fueled by deplorableness. Hate, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and violence, are all key parts of Trump's message to America. And Americans love it. Not all Americans, just the people who believe that immigrants are stealing our jobs, all Muslims are terrorists, tax cuts for the rich somehow help the middle class, Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization, and beating the shit out of people who disagree with you is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Hillary Clinton drew attention to this deplorableness during a speech she gave at a recent fundraiser. She highlighted the hate that swirls around the Trump campaign, and said that half his supporters belong in a "basket of deplorables." Naturally, the deplorable people went ballistic. People who support discrimination against the LGBT community. People who believe African Americans are all thugs or welfare queens. People who have called for the death of Hillary Clinton. People who compare President Obama, and our First Lady, to apes.

But by all means, Alex Jones and David Duke, and Ted Nugent and Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin and Andrew Englin (founder of The Daily Stormer), please tell us why you don't belong in the basket of deplorables. Alex Jones thinks every mass shooting, including the Sandy Hook massacre, is a false flag, and has mused that Michelle Obama is a man. David Duke is a Holocaust denier and a 100% white supremacist. Ted Nugent told Hillary Clinton to suck on a machine gun. Ann Coulter once wrote she wished someone would fly a plane into the New York Times building. Andrew Englin is a white nationalist. Sarah Palin is...well...Sarah Palin.

What the media isn't showing you is the second part of Hillary's speech. The part where she draws attention to the other half of Trump supporters, who do not belong in a basket of deplorables. The people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, who feel as if the government doesn't care. Those people crave a message of support, a message that speaks to their pain, and honestly, if the message makes sense, they don't care about the messenger. Yes, Trump is a bully, and a smarmy snake oil salesman, and most of us wouldn't invite him into our homes, but he says things that appeal to angry, disenfranchised Americans.

Those folks don't care that Trump pals around with neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and conspiracy theorists, they don't care that he's publicly stated he would date his own daughter. They don't care that Trump wants to ban and deport millions of people because of their religion. They don't care Trump said John McCain wasn't a hero. All they care about is Trump promises to create jobs.

They ignore the fact that Trump has no idea how to do this, how to create all these jobs. Trump refuses to give details about any of his ideas, not jobs, not Isis, not Russia, nothing. It's more of the same bullying rhetoric, blaming brown-skinned people for all our problems. They need a savior, a president who gives them a scapegoat on whom they can blame all their misery.

Donald Trump desperately needs his non-deplorable supporters to ignore his racist past, his horribly sexist comments, and he really, really needs them to not look behind the curtain to find his neo-Nazi, white nationalist, supporters and staff.

The other half of Trump supporters have probably never watched InfoWars. They most likely don't care for David Duke, or Stormfront.org, or subscribe to white nationalist websites. They just need a candidate who says all the things they want to hear, and gives them someone to blame for their problems. Someone more vulnerable than they are.

It's September 10. Tomorrow is the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, and one wonders how Donald Trump will treat this solemn day. Will he be respectful, or will he be his usual awful self? Will he lie once again about Muslim Americans celebrating the attacks in New Jersey? Will he bark about banning and deporting all Muslims? Will he, as most conservatives do, use 9/11 for his own political gain? And will his deplorable supporters cheer on his hate and divisiveness, yell racist epithets at Muslims, perhaps desecrate a mosque, or beat up a Muslim business owner?

Donald Trump seems to be successfully running a con on the citizens of this country. A con designed to appeal to the worst of humanity: hate, fear of the other, racism, bullying, sexism, and violence. If he wins, if Donald Trump becomes president, what will become of the United States? Will we have a government based on paranoia and xenophobia? Will Roe v Wade be placed on the "ash heap of history"? Will Mike Pence's dream of government-funded conversion therapy for members of the LGBT community become a reality? Will President Trump deport our Muslim neighbors, spouses, siblings, friends?

President Trump. We live in a country, and in a time, when that could truly happen. Our society is so riddled with hate, we could actually elect a man who counts among his friends white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

What a truly frightening thought.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dogs versus Cats


It seems to happen at least once a week. A dog saves the life of a baby, or an entire family, by selflessly putting itself between danger and a human. Dog Saves Infant From Fire, Dog Saves Family From Fire, Dog Rescues Toddler. Dogs are, from all appearances, better people than most people. Which explains why dogs are so popular as pets.

Cats, on the other hand, will most likely not risk their lives to save a person. Oh, there are some stories about a cat protecting a child, or Meatball, the French cat who saved eleven people in a fire. For the most part, though, cats are jerks.

We have a cat. Her name is Princess, and she has appropriated all the furniture in our living room. Princess is almost eighteen years old. She is a rescue kitty, fat and happy, shedding all over the damn place, chewing on carpet, puking on carpet, floors, and yes, her furniture, and I love her desperately. I do not, however, think Princess would save my life during a fire.

I would save hers, no question. If we had a fire in our townhouse, I would grab her first. Then maybe a scrapbook, my wallet, my phone, and some underwear. Odds are, I would probably try to get some of my mother's art out of the house before my husband dragged me onto the lawn. But I would get the cat first.

And I guarantee that while I was grabbing Princess, she would yell at me, struggle, maybe try to bite or scratch me, because she hates to be held. So as I was saving her life, she would be pissed. Cats are jerks.

When Princess goes to the rainbow bridge, it will break my heart. Despite her quirks, and the cat hair all over the place, and all the times we have stepped in warm, squishy cat vomit, and the fringe missing from a Persian rug I inherited from my mother because Princess ate it, and the cat food she sprays under the dining room table, and how she shoots litter five feet onto the floor, I really love her. I will mourn, I will cry, I will miss her terribly, and then I will get a dog.

A small dog, but not one of those dogs you see being walked from a distance, and think to yourself "Why is that person walking a rat?" Our association has a weight limit on pets, which, sadly, means I cannot have a Newfoundland. Or a pony, but that's a different issue altogether. What I really want is a pug. I love the snarfling noise they make when they're happy, and how their whole butt wags.

Having a dog comes with one major drawback: walks. When it's pouring rain, or twelve below, or snowing so hard you can't see across the parking lot, the dog needs to be walked. When it's ninety degrees, with eighty percent humidity, the dog needs to be walked. If you have the flu, or a migraine, the dog needs to be walked. And it has been made very clear to me that if "we" get a dog, "I" will be responsible for the majority of the dog's care, because my husband doesn't really want a dog.

My husband had a black Lab named Joey many years ago. Joey was a great dog, according to my husband. Joey loved my husband so much, he once brought half a deer carcass home as a present. That image-an adorable black Lab, dragging half a deer carcass across the road, tail wagging as he anticipated how happy my husband would be to receive this wondrous gift. Shockingly, my husband was not as pleased as Joey hoped to have half a rotting corpse deposited in front of his house. But he still remembers Joey with love.

I've never had a dog; we've always been cat people. And maybe, someday, when the opportunity presents itself, I'll get another cat. I just really want a dog. I will run across the street, or walk half a block out my way, to pet and chat with a dog. Dogs like me, because I have a special "talking to animals" voice. It's soft, and low, and gentle. It probably wouldn't work on a wildebeest, or a tiger, or a venomous snake ("Hi! Oh, who's a pretty snake? Now, let's not do that, sweetie, no, we don't have to HOLY SHIT YOU LITTLE BASTARD I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL OH JUST FUCK YOU SNAKE!").

We will have to wait and see if a dog becomes part of our family at some point. Until then, I will care for Princess, and adore her, all the while knowing that she would never, ever save me from a fire. It is more likely that she will, one day, be successful in tripping me as I walk next to her, I will fall and die from a head injury, and she will snack on my corpse.

And then she'll puke on the rug.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Evening Surrounded by Heroes


Wednesday night, a group of survivors gathered in Minneapolis. Some were there to lend their support, some were there to speak, while some were there for the very first time. Survivors of rape, incest, sexual assault, sexual violence, and abuse, sat shoulder to shoulder to Break the Silence.

One by one, men and women walked to the front, sat down, took a microphone, and shared their trauma with a room of strangers. But we weren't really strangers; one thing I have learned over the past year is survivors are bound together by a thread. Sitting in the back, my hand gripping my husband's knee, I listened to shaking voices, failed attempts to choke back tears, and the woman behind us shared her box of tissue, as the young African American women next to me silently wept.

Heroes walked into a room in Minneapolis last night. Whether they spoke or not, just walking into that room was enough. Lending a shoulder, or giving a Kleenex, or writing down a message of hope to place anonymously in a brown paper bag, were all acts of heroism.

I spoke. I was number 103. I don't remember much of what I said; I probably laughed awkwardly at the wrong time, because I do that when I'm nervous. I do know I spoke about Children's Theatre, and when I did, my husband said the woman in front of me began to shake. When she took her turn sharing her story, she mentioned CTC, and I sat straight up in my chair. Another thread.

After each survivor spoke, they were given a lit candle to add to the circle of candles on the floor. The candles represented light, and hope, and honored every hero who had broken their silence.

We cried, a lot, last night. But after the event, laughter began to ring out. Men and women were hugging, and talking, and yes, laughing. Because even in the darkest moments, we found joy. We made friends, exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. And we laughed.

I spent an evening surrounded by heroes. It was an honor, and a blessing, to watch amazingly brave men and women, take back their power. It was also incredibly sad to see young people, some my son's age or a bit older, speak about what they have survived. Last night was a reminder of how many people survive sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, and abuse.

To everyone who spoke, to everyone who came to support us, and to everyone who did not speak, but felt the love, and felt believed and validated, thank you. Thank you for your bravery, your empathy, your honesty, and your light. The world is better for having you in it.

I'm Erin, and I am breaking the silence.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Daniel Fitzpatrick: Another child lost to bullycide


This past Thursday, 13-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick hanged himself. Daniel, a student at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Staten Island, was a victim of bullycide. From The New York Daily News:
Before he took his own life, Daniel Fitzpatrick, taunted and bullied, wrote a final, heartbreaking letter lamenting that nearly no one tried to help him.
The 13-year-old Staten Island boy, mercilessly badgered over his weight, grades and his innocent heart, pleaded to his school for help.
But teacher after teacher at Holy Angels Catholic Academy — the principal, too — turned a deaf ear, refusing to intervene, he said in the letter that was never sent.
Finally, overwhelmed by the torment, Daniel hanged himself, his family said.
His innocent heart. According to Daniel's mom, Daniel didn't want to grow up quite yet. Maureen Fitzpatrick told The New York Daily News:
He just wanted to be a kid. He didn’t want to be involved in things that were too mature for him.
A gentle soul, still a child, who just wanted a safe place to go to school.

We lose far too many children to bullycide. And frankly, listening to pundits and politicians, and reading social media, it's no wonder that parents are raising bullies. A presidential candidate who encourages his own supporters to use violence against people with whom they disagree. Cable news hosts and guests, demeaning those less fortunate. Social media posts, body shaming anyone who isn't aesthetically perfect, insulting people with average, or lower-than-average IQs, blaming victims of violence for their own pain and trauma. Society has created the perfect environment for bullycide.

A 13-year-old child wants to be safe, loved, supported, and encouraged. Daniel Fitzpatrick should have been able to reach out to teachers at Holy Angels Catholic Academy with the expectation those teachers would do something to stop the bullying. No one, especially a 13-year-old child, should ever be allowed to reach a point where suicide is an option.

Children learn what they live. Adults who are keyboard warriors online most likely carry their rage and intolerance into their day-to-day lives. If those adults are parents, their children hear them. They hear the racism, the hate, the anger, the cruelty. They carry that with them to school, where they might find a kid who is brown-skinned, or smarter than they are, or not athletic, or just different. They might remember their parent, yelling about Muslims, or immigrants, or the LGBT community, or women, or intellectuals. And those kids who have been immersed in hate might drive a peer to a place of terror and desperation.

As adults, it is our responsibility to raise children who are not bullies. We do that by not being bullies ourselves. As adults, it is our responsibility to listen to children who are being targeted in school, and help them. And as difficult as this may be, it is also our responsibility to help the bullies. We simply cannot throw those kids away; we must provide them with a safe place, too.

Ending bullycide will take a village. It will involve social media like Twitter and Facebook, neither of which take online bullying seriously enough. It will involve schools implementing programs and training for administrators and educators. It will involve parents willing to stop teaching their own children to hate. It will involve an end to stigmatizing mental illness, or anyone, of any age, who needs help.

We can be that village. We must be that village.

If you are being bullied, or are a parent who needs resources, please visit StopBullying.gov, and PACER.org.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Rocking Chair


My most valuable piece of furniture is an almost 19-year-old rocking chair. The fabric is faded, the wood is dinged and scratched, and it's missing a dowel or two. But this chair means more to me than anything I own. This chair is where I sat, during my third trimester, and talked to my son. This rocking chair soothed my aching back, relaxed my worried mind, and gave me a chance to start teaching my son I was a safe place.

After he was born, the rocking chair became something even more magical. He would nurse, his head supported by a pillow, and I would sing to him, or speak gently of the world. When he awoke in the middle of the night, the rocking chair provided us both somewhere to sleep: he in my arms, me, exhausted, head resting on the pillowed back. I would rock him when he was fussy, or when he just wanted me to.

As he grew, the rocking chair was a book nook. Many nights were spent perched on my lap as I read "Goodnight Moon," or "Guess How Much I Love You." He would giggle at Dr. Seuss, not necessarily understanding all the words, but falling in love with pictures. The rocking chair was where he learned the beginnings of the alphabet. And the rocking chair was where, when nightmares disturbed his sleep, we would sit quietly as I made the monsters go away.

I have other pieces of furniture that are more valuable, at least monetarily. My great-grandmother's couch, my mother's Chinese silk chair and ottoman. Nothing compares to the rocking chair.

Now, as our son looks to the start of the next phase of his life, I look at the rocking chair, and smile a slightly sad smile. I remember holding his hand in the park, the joy on his face when he met Mickey Mouse and Goofy at Walt Disney World, the first time he swam on his own. I remember his first Halloween, dressed as a puppy from "101 Dalmatians," struggling to hold his candy-filled pumpkin. I remember he and my mom having wheelchair races around my parents' condo. I remember when I was able to pick him up and hold him if the world got too big or scary.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair, with those huge blue eyes looking up at me, as I taught my son the wonders of life. I wish the world could stay that way; innocent, filled with belly laughs and Thomas the Tank Engine. We all have to grow up, though, we all change and move on.

So I will sit in the rocking chair, content that we have raised a truly remarkable man. I will daydream about one day holding a grandchild in my lap, rocking in the rocking chair, and reading "Goodnight Moon," while their little eyelids slowly close. And my smile will be less sad.